S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science




Adams, Mr Arthur (conchology)

Born: 1820, Gosport, Hampshire, United Kingdom.
Died: 1878, Place not known.

Arthur Adams, English physician, naturalist and conchologist, published over a hundred papers and several books during his lifetime. His very first paper, "On the variation of colour in wild plants", appeared in 1840, when he was only twenty years old. Three years later he obtained the position of surgeon-naturalist on the British naval vessel H.M.S. Samarang which, with H.M.S. Sulpher (with surgeon-naturalist R.B. Hinds*), comprised the first expedition to dredge for marine life on the Agulhas Bank.

Both vessels were under the command of Captain (later Sir) Edward Belcher (1799-1877), who was also in charge of the natural history collections even though he has been described as "a rough, roistering, old-time sailor, who bothered little about localities and relied mainly on his memory" (Kilburn & Rippey, 1982, p. 18). Belcher first commanded H.M.S. Sulpher (1836-1842) and then H.M.S. Samarang (1843-1846, with Adams on board), on extensive voyages. The Samarang surveyed, among others, the islands of South-East Asia, but visited the Cape in 1843. Dredging was done on the Agulhas Bank and continental slope in deeper water than the 70-130 m range covered by the Sulphur during the previous year, and led to the recovery of distinctive Agulhas Bank species of molluscs.

Captain Belcher wrote an account of the expedition, Narrative of the voyage of HMS Samarang during the years 1843-46 (London, 1848), to which Adams contributed an account of the natural history of the countries and islands visited during the voyage. He also edited a volume on The zoology of the voyage of HMS Samarang... (London, 1850), and wrote the section on Mollusca himself. The quality of the expedition's work left something to be desired. Of the 13 new species of molluscs said to have been collected at the Cape, five actually came from other regions of the world. Furthermore, Adams has been described as a "notoriously slipshod conchologist"(Kilburn & Rippey, 1982, p. 18). Nonetheless he spent the next more than twenty years on conchological research. Most of his many papers contained descriptions of new species of molluscs (especially gasteropods) from various countries and collections, and were published in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society and Annals of Natural History. Shortly befor 1860 he travelled to Japan and adjacent regions and during the next ten years wrote papers on the molluscs of Japan and northern China, as well as a book, Travels of a naturalist in Japan and Manchuria (London, 1870). His brother Henry was also a conchologist and the two brothers sometimes published together, for example their joint book, The genera of recent molluscs (London, 1853-1858). Some marine molluscs were named after Arthur, though the names are no longer in use, while Gulella adamsiana (Adams's hunter snail, found along the South African east coast) still carries his name.


List of sources:
Barnard, K.H. Personal names in South African conchology. Cape Town: Conchological Society of SA, 1965.

Kilburn, R. & Rippey, E. Sea shells of southern Africa (p. 18). Johannesburg: Macmillan, 1982.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org Search for Arthur Adams.


Compiled by: C. Plug


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